Exploring the valley's covered bridges
CONWAY — There are various theories about why bridges were first roofed. Some say that the bridge’s heavy timbers lasted longer when protected from the elements. In earlier days, young couples soon took advantage of the privacy the bridge allowed, and as a result, covered bridges came to be known as “courting” or “kissing bridges."
These vestiges of yesteryear remain in Mount Washington Valley as a reminder of simpler times. Still preserved, many of the valley’s covered bridges remain as working bridges, and a myriad of visitors to Mount Washington Valley come just to tour these bridges. Here is a sampling of some of the area’s favorite covered bridges.
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• Conway Covered Bridges- Turn west at the light in Conway (at the junction of Routes 16 and 153). Bear right at the fork to the first Conway Covered Bridge. The first of the two Conway Covered Bridges over the Saco River is 235 feet long, and is called a “2-span” covered bridge. It was built in 1890 at a cost of $4,000. This was the third bridge on this site, and it was built by Charles Broughton and his son Frank of Conway (who also built the Jackson Covered Bridge). It was reconstructed in 1987-90 by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. If you bear left at the fork, you’ll come to a 130-foot covered bridge spanning the Swift River. The first bridge on this site was swept downstream during the floods of spring, 1869, taking with it the neighboring Saco River Bridge. The Swift River Bridge was rebuilt the following year by Jacob Berry and his son, Jacob. True to the Yankee tradition, they incorporated lumber salvaged from the two earlier bridges. The 1870 bridge was restored for foot traffic in 1991. Today the bridge is not open to traffic there are picnic tables at the entrance and inside the bridge, making this the perfect spot to enjoy the river.
• Albany Covered Bridge- Six miles west of Conway and north of the Kancamagus Highway. Sometimes known as the “Lovers Bridge,” this 120-foot bridge over the Swift River was built in 1858. It is the second bridge built on this spot after the first one blew down in 1857 before it could be completed. The story is it was rebuilt by Amzi Russell and Leander S. Morton who agreed to complete the job for $1300 less than what was paid on account for the first unsuccessful attempt at building the bridge. Come add your name to the hundreds of visitors there.
• Bartlett Covered Bridge - 4.5 miles east of Bartlett Village on Route 302 in Glen. This 167-foot long span has been closed to traffic since 1939. From time to time it has been home to a gift shop, which still remains open today.
• Jackson’s “Honeymoon” bridge - This often photographed covered bridge is located on Route 16A, just off Route 16 at the entrance to Jackson Village. The Jackson bridge was built in 1876 by Charles Broughton and his son, Frank. It spans 121 feet across the Ellis River. According to the town, a covered walkway was added in 1930, and runs along its length. Word has it that suitors and honeymooners alike would come to this bridge to steal a kiss from their beloved under the cover of the bridge. Today, it is the site for one of the most scenic photo opportunities in Mount Washington Valley.
For more information on visiting Mount Washington Valley, call 1-800-do-see-nh ( 800-367-3364) or visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org